Friday, September 24, 2021

Ambition. A Friday story.

I'm reading a meandering book by Philip Hoare ostensibly on the great 16th Century artist Albrecht Durer. It's called "Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Durer and How Art Imagines Our World." You can read the review here.

I picked the book up because I knew one thing about Durer and I was intrigued by that one thing. That Durer drew his famous rendering of the Rhinoceros without ever having seen a rhinoceros. 

As someone who's often charged professionally with explaining things I'm not sure I fully understand, with some arrogance I likened myself to Durer. We often have to do the best we can with incomplete information. 

For instance, the way I always explained the difference between binary computing and Quantum computing was through this example. If you're in the Library of Congress and someone puts a giant X on one of the billions of pages in their collection, a binary computer, with superfast speeds, will essentially flip through all those pages in order to locate the X. A Quantum computer--through the spooky magic of Qbits, can look at all of those billions of pages at once--finding the X much more quickly.

I don't understand the how. But the example helps clarify the what.

Durer was there, too. Which angels and devils and rhinoceros and sea creatures great and small.

Hoare's book is a ramble. And Wednesday night, I read less about Durer than I would have liked and more about the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, Marianne Moore.

On October 19th, 1955, Moore was approached by an executive from Ford Motor Company. They needed help in naming a new luxury automobile--and they turned to Moore.

A Mr. Robert Young of Ford briefed Moore with these words:

We should like this name to be more than a label. Specifically, we should like it to have a compelling quality in itself and by itself. To convey, through association or other conjuration, some visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design. A name, in short, that flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people's minds.

Bad briefs are nothing new.

However, I love the ambition of bringing poetry to commerce. 

From October 21, 1955 to December 8, 1955, Moore sent Ford 43 different names.

They rejected them all. Including the last, "Utopian Turtletop."

  1. The Ford Silver Sword
  2. Hirundo
  3. Aerundo
  4. Hurricane Hirundo (swallow)
  5. Hurricane Aquila (eagle)
  6. Hurricane Accipter (hawk)
  7. The Impeccable
  8. Symmechromatic
  9. Thunderblender
  10. The Resilient Bullet
  11. Intelligent Bullet
  12. Bullet Cloisoné
  13. Bullet Lavolta
  14. The Intelligent Whale
  15. The Ford Fabergé (That there is also a perfume Fabergé seems to me to do no harm, for here allusion is to the original silversmith)
  16. The Arc-en-Ciel (the rainbow)
  17. Arcenciel
  18. Mongoose Civique
  19. Anticipator
  20. Regna Racer (couronne a couronne) sovereign to sovereign
  21. Aeroterre
  22. Fée Rapide (Aerofee, Aero Faire, Fee Aiglette, Magi-faire) Comme Il Faire
  23. Tonnere Alifère (winged thunder)
  24. Aliforme Alifère (wing-slender a-wing)
  25. Turbotorc (used as an adjective by Plymouth)
  26. Thunderbird Allié (Cousin Thunderbird)
  27. Thunder Crester
  28. Dearborn Diamanté
  29. Magigravure
  30. Pastelogram
  31. Regina-Rex
  32. Taper Racer
  33. Varsity Stroke
  34. Angelastro
  35. Astranaut
  36. Chaparral
  37. Tir á l'arc (bull's eye)
  38. Cresta Lark
  39. Triskelion (three legs running)
  40. Pluma Piluma (hairfine, feather-foot)
  41. Adante con Moto (description of a good motor?)
  42. Turcotinga (turqoise cotinga—the cotinga being a South-American finch or sparrow) solid indigo.
  43. Utopian Turtletop
For their new luxury line of automobiles, Ford used a name Henry Ford II had chosen. 


I could find no comment from Ms. Moore.

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